Congressional Black Caucus

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The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing African American members of the Congress of the United States. Its chair in the 109th Congress is Representative Mel Watt of North Carolina.



The Caucus was founded in January 1969, by a group of black members of the House of Representatives, including Shirley Chisholm of New York, Louis Stokes of Ohio and William L. Clay of Missouri. Blacks had begun to enter the House in increasing numbers during the 1960s, and the formation of the Caucus reflected their need for a formal organization. Originally called a "Democratic Select Committee," it was named the Congressional Black Caucus in February 1971 on the motion of Charles B. Rangel of New York.

Aims and Criticism

The Caucus describes its goals as "positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation," and "achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services."

The CBC encapsulates these goals in the following priorities: Closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in education, assuring quality health care for every American, focusing on employment and economic security, ensuring justice for all, retirement security for all Americans, and increasing equity in foreign policy. Priorities detailed

"The Congressional Black Caucus is one of the world's most esteemed bodies, with a history of positive activism unparalleled in our nation's history. Whether the issue is popular or unpopular, simple or complex, the CBC has fought for thirty years to protect the fundamentals of democracy. Its impact is recognized throughout the world. The Congressional Black Caucus is probably the closest group of legislators on the Hill. We work together almost incessantly, we are friends and, more importantly, a family of freedom fighters. Our diversity makes us stronger, and the expertise of all of our members has helped us be effective beyond our numbers."
Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas

However, the Caucus does face opposition. Some see the existence of the Caucus as counter-productive, and some even see the body as racist, although this view is considered extreme by most [1]. Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts made national headlines when he refused to join the Caucus for this reason.

"...they said that I had sold out and Uncle Tom. And I said well, they deserve to have that view. But I have my thoughts. And I think they're race-hustling poverty pimps."
J.C. Watts, Jr. speaking on Hannity and Colmes about his refusal to join the Caucus.


The Caucus is officially non-partisan, but in practice it has been almost exclusively composed of Democrats, and tends to function as a lobbying group with the wider Congressional Democratic Party. Only three black Republicans have been elected to Congress since the Caucus was founded: Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts and Representatives Gary Franks of Connecticut and J.C. Watts, Jr. of Oklahoma, who refused to join.

The Caucus has grown steadily as more African American members have been elected. In 1969 the Caucus had nine members. As of 2005 it had 43 members, including two who are non-voting members of the House, representing the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Currently, Illinois Senator Barack Obama is the only African-American member of the U.S. Senate.

Members of the Caucus during the 109th Congress

(All current Caucus members are Democrats.)

See also

External link

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